Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ask, and I will find: red velvet cake

Tiffany said...

Do you know any place in Vancouver that sells red velvet cake by the slice? I know two places that occasionally make red velvet cupcakes. They make cakes too but then you have to buy the whole cake which is too much to eat.

Thanks in advance!

"A Red velvet cake is a type of rich and sweet cake, with a distinctive dark red to bright red or red-brown color." The red colouring comes from beets or red food colouring.

Some recipes/reviews I've encountered have said that real red velvet cakes should contain a whole bottle of food colouring. I think that's a great way to speed up the onset of cancer, since I doubt that most bakeries are using this stuff.

But hey, we're young, so, as Marie-Antoinette has been misquoted as saying, and which I will now misappropriate, "Lettuce eat cake."

Red velvet cake can come topped with either butter roux icing (also known as a cooked flour frosting) or cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese version is apparently ever so much better.

There don't appear to be any bakeries or restaurants that sell red velvet cake by the slice in Vancouver. I checked the great bulk of the Southern restaurants, "fancy" restaurants, and bakeries in Vancouver, and none of them carried it.

Red velvet appears to be a special occasion item that that mostly shows up around Valentine's Day. I know that Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (aka PICA) had them as part of a post-Valentine's Day theme. Maybe they carry them occasionally during other times in the year?

I suggest you make a reservation at PICA around that time in February (come with me!) -- there's a 2-for-1 three course meal-deal that happens during the months of January and February (which I know you've already done, and which everyone else should take advantage of -- it's equivalent to $12 for lunch and $18 for dinner). Right now, they're offering the same promotion every Monday.

La Baguette et l'Echalotte on Granville Island used to carry red velvet cake five years ago (alas, no longer).

Waterloo (where Tiffany currently resides) also appears to be red velvet-free.

I did (correct me if I am mistaken) manage to locate the two cupcake places you mentioned.

Cupcakes -- now with five different locations -- describes their version as "red cocoa cake topped with cream cheese frosting and dusted with white sugar".

Butter Baked Goods on 4321 Dunbar St. also sometimes has red velvet cupcakes on rotation.

Based on the reviews I've seen, neither rendition is particularly spectacular.

If you want the good "to-die-for" stuff, I think you have to be willing to drive down to the States. Aside from the fact that red velvet cake is a Southern specialty, the mere existence of a post about the "best red velvet cakes in Seattle" (there are seven on the list) points to the fact that you should be planning a trip to the States now (how's that for a mini-honeymoon?). There, they even sell red velvet cupcakes at Target!

The best is supposed to be at The Kingfish Cafe (602 19th Avenue East), where it "comes in slices as big as your head" for around $9.

If worse comes to worst, definitely look into this: According to, red velvet cakes are sometimes given as a groom's cake in Southern USA. "Intended to be a gift from the bride to the groom, the groom's cake is usually dark (often chocolate or liquor-soaked) and designed with a nod towards what's traditionally considered "masculine" (i.e., no rosettes in sight)."

My advice: splurge on a tasty treat for your husband-to-be! (Aren't newly-weds supposed to share everything?)

Or, even better, start a new tradition -- the bride cake. ;)

Believe it or not, pictured below is a Spiderman Red Velvet groom's cake. How awesome would that be?

In the meantime, since "[a] Red Velvet Cake is really a Devil's Food Cake that has red food colouring added to it," I suggest heading to True Confections for a slice of their devil's food cake "with dark chocolate layers, chocolate filling, and marshmallow icing."

I liked it so much the first time I had it that I actually had it again :o. Make sure you get it fresh -- it's not as good the next day. It's definitely worth trying if you haven't already.

If you don't mind BIY (baking it yourself), just ask if you want some good recipes for red velvet cake. Be sure to specify exactly what you're looking for -- I've come across sooo many (gluten-free, vegan, all-natural, all-artificial (just kidding) etc.).

Bon appetit!

UPDATE: Wow, you made it this far -- and not for nothing anymore, either! I have found a place that sells red velvet cake in Vancouver! Unfortunately, I don't think it actually tastes all that good. You can buy red velvet cake by the slice at WE. Coffee (1696 Robson St., a few stores to the right of Robson Public Market). The girl working the counter said it was her favourite cake slice, so I was expecting extreme deliciousness!

It looked like this:

I took it home to share with my mom and little sister. I also picked up half a dozen cupcakes from Cupcakes (one of which was red velvet), for comparison purposes.

I have to say, I was very disappointed with the WE. version. Inspired by this post, I'd made a point of trying pretty much every red velvet cake and cupcake I came across during a trip to New York, and the WE. version was on
par with the worst of them. The cake part was extremely dense and not very flavourful, and the icing was a plain white one that tasted like the crummy store-bought kind. To be honest, I was quite surprised, given the $5.75 price tag for the slice. All three of us agreed that the version from Cupcakes was superior by far.

Cupcakes' red velvet cupcake was moist and delicious, complimented perfectly by their cream cheese frosting. I think the
Cupcakes version is a much better value for your money. If you like dense, rich cakes, however, feel free to give the WE. version a try and let us know what you think of it.

Other places you can find red velvet cake/cupcakes in Vancouver:

Superstore. I've heard great things about their PC Red Velvet Cheesecake, but haven't had a chance to try it yet myself. I haven't found a reviewer yet that wasn't impressed by it.

Cassia Cupcakery (1706 Commercial Drive).
I tried their mini red velvet cupcake for $1 and thought it was pretty tasty. The bakery itself doesn't look like it's gotten very good reviews overall though... I can't give my thoughts because the mini was all I tried (I was already full of other stuff from the Italian festival that was taking place that day).

Super Valu (
1645 East 1st Avenue, just off Commercial Drive) also sells big red velvet cupcakes in packages of four. I haven't tried those, but I did try a strawberry frosted cupcake by the same brand, and that was delicious.

I'm sure there are a lot more places that sell red velvet cake nowadays, as it's gotten pretty popular... I just haven't been looking all that hard since I had my fill of them in New York City. A lot of the cupcake shops in Vancouver sell cupcake versions, while WE. Cafe is the only place I've found that actually sells red velvet cake by the slice.

One last note about WE. Cafe -- I had their famous Mariage Frères Marco Polo tea there the same day I picked up my slice of red velvet, and felt quite ripped off by it. Mariage Frères is supposed to make some of the best teas in the world. It smelled so refreshing and appetizing in my cup, but had next to no taste whatsoever. I think that the barista didn't steep the tea bags for long enough. Unfortunately, I couldn't simply wait for the tea to steep longer, because the cafe's policy is to remove the tea bags before they bring your teapot to you. So I basically paid $5.99 for a nice-smelling pot of flavourless water.

But that is the subject of another blog post that I will probably not get around to writing, because I have given up food writing to write quirky novels and short stories.
My first novel, which I am now looking to get published, is called Teaching for Apples. It's about a girl who likes apples so much that she decides to become a teacher, because everyone knows that being a teacher is the best way to get free apples. Too bad none of her students will give her any!

You can find out more about the novel and even read some of my stories by liking my Facebook fan page:


  1. Wow that was super informative! I wish I were in Vancouver now. And how did you know it was Cupcakes and Butter I was talking about?? The lady (owner?) at Butter actually told me that red velvet cake is more like a gimmicky chocolate cake, but to me, the red is still pretty alluring. Speaking of wedding cake, we're getting ours from Butter actually--hazelnut and vanilla (we bought a whole bunch of cupcakes a while back to do taste tests, yum).
    Thanks for finding this :D !!

  2. Red velvet has gained popularity over the years I think. It's 2012 now and I see and hear it everywhere!

    If you are worried about using too much liquid food colouring, then use gels. The red colour is bolder and you won't need much of it. There are also natural food colouring out there. The red is from beets, like you mentioned.

    BTW, too bad your Mariage Frères tea didn't turn out:( My husband and I are big fans of Mariage Frères since we lived in Paris. We had expensive high tea at that place once! Our favourite tea from there is Lune Rouge I think. All the ones we have tried were good. Marco Polo wasn't one of them so I can't comment. They are super strong teas though so you wouldn't need to steep for very long.